Phoenix Suns: Top 5 Free-Agent Signings in Franchise History
The Phoenix Suns will start the 2012-13 season after having one of the busiest offseasons in franchise history. The team did not acquire any amazing star power, but they brought in Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Goran Dragic from free agency.
As of now, it looks like the Suns did not at all overspend on those three, and they could all end up being huge bargains down the road.
Looking back at the franchise's history, Phoenix has never really been a team to bring in a lot of talent via free agency, which makes this past offseason even more unusual. Still, the team has acquired some good players over the years. And with the potential these recent signings have, perhaps Scola, Beasley and Dragic could find their names on a list like this one day too.
But those three players have yet to play a minute in a Suns uniform. So for now, let's look at the greatest free-agent signings ever for the Phoenix Suns up to this point.
Honorable Mention: Raja Bell
Raja Bell had the best seasons of his career in Phoenix and was a great contributor to the Steve Nash-era Suns. Bell signed with the team in 2005 on a five-year contract worth just under $24 million, which was a great price considering Bell was a starter.
In his first season with the Suns, Bell scored 14.7 points a game and became known as one of the league's greatest three-point shooters, shooting 44 percent from behind the three-point line and hitting 2.5 threes a game.
Bell saw the same success for the next few seasons as the team's starting 2-guard, and was with the team until halfway through the 2008-09 season when he was traded as part of the package that brought Jason Richardson to Phoenix.
Bell may not have been an amazing player, but he was still a feared three-point shooter and did a lot for the Suns despite his small contract. He was an important and clutch player during the three playoff runs he had with Phoenix, and his 622 made three pointers with the team puts him at fifth all-time. In addition, his 42-percent three-point shooting is second all-time and next to only Steve Nash.
5. Grant Hill
By the time Grant Hill became a free agent in 2007, he was already considered washed up.
Long gone were the days when he was a superstar, as constant ankle injuries had forced him to play over 65 games just twice in his six seasons with Orlando. And even when he was healthy, in only one season did he average more than 17 points a game with the Magic.
Hill came to Phoenix on a very cheap contract as a washed up 35-year-old, but he provided a lot more for the team than was originally expected of him. Hill spent five seasons with the Suns; he played over 70 games in each of the first four, and 49 in last year's lockout-shortened season.
He was suddenly a durable player, as if he had never had any ankle problems in the previous several years with Orlando.He also averaged double-digit scoring figures in all five seasons and became one of just seven all-time NBA players to average more than 13 points a game at the age of 38 or older.
Above all, Hill played great defense for a team that needed it.
The Suns were never considered a great defensive team, but Hill became a defensive weapon they could use to guard the league's best small forwards such as Durant, James, Anthony or Pierce. He wasn't an amazing offensive tool, but that wasn't his real purpose. The team had Stoudemire, Nash and Richardson who could all score, so Hill didn't have to.
Though none of his five seasons with the Suns were amazing years, he gave the team so much more than anyone thought he could. He wasn't just a washed up locker-room veteran, but he contributed to the team on the court as well.
Nash was obviously the biggest departure of the offseason, but Hill will also be missed.
4. Clifford Robinson
After spending his best seasons in the league with the Blazers, Robinson signed with the Suns in 1997 at the age of 31. He wasn't as good as he was in Portland, but he still found success in the four years he spent in Phoenix.
In his first season with the team, Robinson was paid a small $1million salary and put up 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game. His scoring numbers were better in the next couple seasons, and in the 1999-2000 season he put up 18.5 points and and 4.5 rebounds in what was his best season with Phoenix.
For a 6'10" player, Robinson's career average of 4.6 rebounds a game was awful.
However, he made up for it in other areas. He could score from all over the court and was a career 36-percent shooter from behind the arc. He wasn't a blocking machine, but he did average a steal and a block a game over the course of his career and is 10th on the team's all-time blocks list.
Robinson's biggest accomplishment as a Phoenix Sun would have to have come on January 16, 2000 in a game against the Denver Nuggets in which the 33-year-old Robinson registered his first and only career 50-point game.
He wasn't a franchise player that the team could build around, but he was a good second or third scoring option.
3. Connie Hawkins
"The Hawk" joined the NBA in 1969 and spent three seasons with the Phoenix Suns. Though his stay in the desert was short, all three seasons were all-star years for the Hall of Famer, and they were also the best NBA seasons of his career.
In his first and also greatest season in the NBA, Hawkins put up 24.6 points and 10.4 rebounds to go along with 4.8 assists. His last game of the season was his greatest, in which he put up a ridiculous 44 points, 20 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks and 5 steals.
He was a complete monster on both ends of the court and one of the premier players in the league at the time.
Hawkins might have only spent a few years with Phoenix, but he has gone down as one of the team's all-time legends. He's eighth in franchise history in free throws made, free throws attempted and points per game, and is ninth in rebounds per game. He made a huge impact on the team and cannot be left off a list like this.
2. Tom Chambers
Unlike Hawkins, Tom Chambers is not a Hall of Fame player, but that doesn't mean he was anything short of a legend in the time he spent with Phoenix.
Chambers played five seasons in the desert after signing a lucrative contract, and for those first two years, his main objective was to shoot. Chambers averaged 25.7 points a game in his first season and a career high 27.2 points a game in his second year with Phoenix.
After that, former teammate Xavier McDaniel joined the team in 1990 and Chambers took less shots and focus more on fitting in with his teammates. His scoring numbers and role with the team gradually declined until eventually in his fifth year with the Suns, he accepted a sixth-man role after the arrival of Charles Barkley.
For his first three years in Phoenix, Chambers was selected to the all-star game three times and the All-NBA second team twice. Along with Kevin Johnson, Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle, the Suns also made it to the Western Conference finals on a few different occasions.
In short, Chambers was a legendary player for Phoenix and the expensive contract was worth every penny. He is sixth all-time for the franchise in points per game, eighth in defensive rebounds and 10th in field goal attempts.
And even now, Chambers still has a place with the team as a community relations representative.
1. Steve Nash
Yes, there he is again. He is guaranteed to show up on any list pertaining to all-time Phoenix Sun greats, no matter what the category is.
Nash has done so much for the Suns since signing in 2004.
He's won two MVP awards, had 6 all-star appearances and has helped in developing so many different young players and making them better. He set up his teammates with endless opportunities to succeed and brought the Suns so close to winning a ring several different times. His pass-first style of play made him adored by teammates, fans and people all across the league.
Not only is Steve Nash the greatest free agent ever signed by the Suns, he is also without a doubt the greatest player to ever put on a Phoenix uniform.
He is the all-time franchise leader in three pointers made, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage and assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field for his career and 43 percent from behind the arc, and the fact that he is an amazing shooter but chooses to share the ball with his teammates makes him all the more admirable.
Nash leaving for the Lakers marks the end to a great era and a fun and exciting time to be a Suns fan. Steve Nash, you will be missed.